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Friday 10 October 2014

Meteoro class offshore patrol vessels of the Spanish Navy

Written by D-Mitch

Meteoro, lead ship of the class. Photo:
The Meteoro class BAM (Buque de Acción Marítima) are four multi-purpose offshore patrol vessels in service with Spanish Navy (Armada Española). The designation is Avante 3000 Patrol. The ships are the newest patrol vessles operated by Spanish Navy; they were built by Navantia at San Fernando / Puerto Real Shipyards and they were delivered to the Navy in 2009-2010. The home port of the ships is Las Palmas Naval Station (Canary Islands). The design is modular and thus the configuration depends on the mission. According to Navantia, the class is specially designed for the following missions: control of activities maritime areas, protection of merchant shipping, maritime search and rescue operations (SAR), surveillance and control of environmental legislation and pollution, surveillance and control of fishing, logistic and medical support to smaller ships, humanitarian relief operations, intelligence gathering, operations against the traffic of people and drug smuggling, control and neutralization of terrorist actions and pirate activities, inward and outward transport of Special Forces and naval presence.

The second vessel of Meteoro class, Rayo. Photo: Diego Quevedo Carmona
Due to the modular design, the ships can be modified also for other missions such as diving support and salvage operations, hydrographic research and intelligence gathering (with more advanced equipment). It has been reported on the news that the next batch of ships, about 2-4 vessels, will be specialized in these kinds of roles.

Modified photo of a Meteoro class offshore patrol vessel of the Spanish Navy. In high resolution here.
The general characteristics of the class is a full displacement of about 2,670 tons, length of 94m and a speed of 21knots while the range is 8,000n.m. (!) with the cruising speed of 15knots. The crew is 46 people while it can accommodate up to 70 people. The hips/ endurance is 35 days. The vessels of the class carry two RHIB Zodiac Hurricane of 7m(rigid hulled/inflatable boat) with capacity for 18 people. With a maximum speed of 34 knots, they are perfect for VBSS missions. The RHIBs are kept at either side of the superstructure. The ships are equipped with a helideck and a hangar to accommodate a medium size (10tons) helicopter such as an NH90. Moreover, there are suitable interfaces in the poop deck / flight deck to adequately embark up to three (aft) plus three (on the flight deck) mission containers such as UAVs, anti-pollution equipment,  divers support equipment and habitability modules.

The fourth ship of the Meteoro class, Tornado. Photo: Sergio Acosta
The ships are armed with the standard OTO Melara Compact 3in (76.2mm/62cal) gun located forward of the bridge. The gun is fully automatic, it is linked to the ship's fire control system and the combat management system. This weapon system can intercept air and surface targets at a distance of 4 km (at 85 degrees) and 16 km (effective 8 km) respectively unleashing about 85 rounds per minute weighting greater than 6kg each. The gun has excellent performance in any kind of role, such as air defence, anti surface, anti-missile and shore bombardment role. However, it is not clear if the system belongs to the latest Super Rapido version with the increased rate of fire of 120rds/min.

The main gun of the class. Photo:

Mk38 gun system.
Mk38 gun system.
Photo: ventuari
Each vessels is equipped with two BAE Systems Mk38 Mod 2 gun systems, a derivative of the Typhoon Mk25 Weapon System developed by Rafael and it incorporates a stabilized sensor ball (Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Toplite II) with electro-optical TV, laser rangefinder, and infrared sensor, a fully-stabilized mount, and a remote firing option using a fire control console mounted inside the ship and linked to the ship's combat  management system SCOMBA. The Mk38 Mod 2 allows the PCs to lock-on and fire-on-the-move without a standing gunner behind the gun, and to fire in nighttime and adverse weather conditions using the stabilized sensor ball. The Mk38 Mod 2 main weapon is the Alliant Techsystems Inc M242 Bushmaster 25-mm dual feed automatic chain gun, a proven NATO standard auto cannon with 2.5 km range and selectable rates of fire. The M242 Bushmaster fires all USN-approved 25-mm ammunition at up to 180 rounds per minute, with the Mk38 Mod 2 providing 168 rounds on-mount. Except the two single Mk38 guns that carries each ship, the boats may be equipped with two single heavy machine guns (M2HB of 12.7mm). The M2HB (Heavy Barrel) has a maximum (effective) range of around 1,830m and a cyclical rate of fire of about 500-600 rounds per minute.

P41 Meteoro; notice the three containers aft (behind helideck). Photo:
ARIES surveillance radar. Photo: Indra

Meteoro class BAMs. Photo: MattyBoy
The ships are equipped with an Indra ARIES Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) surveillance radar. According to the manufacturer, the radar has unique performances in detection, tracking and identification of surface and low flying targets of a large range of sizes and speed. The ARIES family is suitable for the detection and acquisition of low Radar Cross Section (RCS) surface targets in severe sea clutter environments. The system uses Frequency Modulated Continuous Waveform (FMCW), principle that enables to obtain long detection ranges with minimal peak transmission powers. This fact, together with the large bandwidths utilized, provides Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) characteristics and high robustness against external interference. The FMCW principle also offers a high range resolution of the order of a few centimetres, coupled with an exceptional local image tracking capability. It largely surpasses all existing radar products of its class. In the ARIES radar, the transmission and reception of signals is done simultaneously through a double-sided antenna. It offers a high transmission power and a high sensibility. Its radar detection range is comparable to the conventional pulsed radars with power levels of several kW. In this ARIES variant installed on the Meteoro class, it is included both the capability for air search and provision of information  for aircraft control or helicopters guidance as well as the capability for sea surface search and navigation. This way, the radar includes two modes of operation: ARIES SAAS mode and the ARIES NAV mode, It is possible thanks to an electronic antenna tilt control that automatically adjusts the antenna tilt and the incorporation of a dual-mode processing software. The selection of the mode of operation is done by the operator from the display unit. The radar is integrated with an IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) system, Indra IFF CIT-25D, to provide altitude and identification information.

P44 Tornado. Photo: Diego Quevedo Carmona
P42 Rayo. Photo: Diego Quevedo Carmona

The ships equips a DORNA 2 electro-optic control system manufactured by the Fabrica de Artilleria Bazan (FABA), a weapons and systems subsidiary of Navantia. FABA. DORNA sensors include K-band radar and tracking radar along with an infrared camera, high definition television camera and laser rangefinder; all mounted in a gyrostabilized turret.

P44 Tornado in high speed

RIGEL. Photo: Indra
The electronic warfare suite is Indra RIGEL. The RIGEL Radar EA (Electronic Attack) system’s family provides a platform with self-protection by means of jamming and deception countermeasure techniques against either single or multiple threats that are active on the whole 6-18 GHz frequency band (optional 0,5-18 GHz range, depending on selected configuration). The RIGEL Radar-ES system’s family provides high sensitivity detection, analysis, classification and identification of radar signals, as well as high accurate DF measurement within a wide band  instantaneous coverage, covering the whole 2-18 GHz frequency range (optional 0,5-40 GHz range, depending on the selected configuration). For more information about the systems capabilities and techniques click Rigel ES and EA Systems.

The bridge of P42 Rayo. Photo by Patalavaca

ARGOS EO system
Photo: Technobit

VisionMaster FT radar. Photo: Sperry Marine
Each ship has a VisionMaster FT radar manufactured by Northrop Grumman Sperry Marine. The system provides clear radar images in extreme weather conditions, greater bridge performance and improved navigation accuracy increasing operating efficiency and safety level at sea whilst offering a user-friendly interface.Tecnobit ARGOS is  a  forward looking infra-red payload that equips the vessels of the class. ARGOS is an electro-optic system for day/night use, providing high performances and it is intended for navigation, observation and surveillance. ARGOS system consists of an electro-optic sensors package, mounted on a gyro stabilized platform. The electro-optic system is composed of a high performance thermal camera, a CCD visible band camera and an Eye Safe Laser Range Finder. Automatic Video tracking can follow designated targets on both bands.

P43 Relambpago. Photo: Diego Quevedo Carmona

Mk36 SRBOC launchers
The decoy launchers are the BAE Systems Mk 36 Super Rapid Bloom Offboard Countermeasures (SRBOC) Chaff and Decoy Launching System. It is a shipboard, deck-mounted, 6-barreled mortar-type array that launches type-specific countermeasures against a variety of threats. Following launch and dispersion, Mk36 SRBOC chaff and infrared countermeasures are designed to lure hostile missiles away from ships under attack by creating false target sets. The Mk36 SRBOC launching system is controlled from the ship’s Combat Information Center (CIC), and is dependent on information provided by the ship’s detection and threat analysis equipment. The Mk36 SRBOC consists of the Mk137 launcher, firing stations at the bridge and CIC, the Mk160 power supply, Mk5 Mod2 or Mod4 Ready Service Lockers (RSLs), and a selection of munitions. Each vessel carries four Mk137 launchers. Sistemas FABA SCOMBA (Sistema de Combate para Buques de la Armada) is the  combat management system of the ships and Sistemas FABA SICP (Sistema Integrado de Control de Plataforma) is the integrated platform management system.

P45 Audaz, 5th boat in the class and first of the Batch II. Photo: Navantia
In June 2009, the Secretary of State for Defence and Congress confirmed the construction of a second batch to replace numerous older patrol boat classes. In September 2010, the Ministry of Defence said a contract would be signed with Navantia for four (4) additional vessels to be delivered by 2015, but the contract has yet to be signed. Navantia has indicated that the Batch 2 vessels will be more modular, with the potential to switch between oceanography, intelligence gathering and search-and-rescue. One will be a diving support vessel, and one will be a research vessel for hydrography and logistical support in the Antarctic. The acquisition of two vessels, to enter service in 2018, was formally approved by the Spanish cabinet on 18 July 2014 at a cost of €166.74m (US$224m) each. (source). At least two or four more boats will follow.

P44 Tornado. Photo: Diego Quevedo Carmona


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